[sc34wg3] Re: Backwards Compatability WAS: Public Interest and ISO WAS: [topicmapmail] <mergeMap> questions

Sam Hunting sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Sun, 21 Oct 2001 13:56:45 -0700 (PDT)

> [kal ahmed]
> Yes I would support it. However, your definition of what
> constitutes broken and mine are possibly different.

[sam hunting]
> Probably, but at least we have agreement in principle.

[kal ahmed]
> Its just a shame that the basis of that principle is not agreed on

Well, to some extent I think it is agreed upon. I'd sum up (hoping I
don't bias my point points too strongly :-) as follows:

1. There is such a thing as the public interest.

2. The ISO process is meant to serve the public interest (see James
Mason's posting) 

3. Public interest claims should be made with care and carefully

4. "Holier than thou" is not an effective rhetorical stance, and public
interest claims are subject to devaluaton if not made in accordance
with point 3.

> Sam, anytime one asks for stability of the XTM spec you respond by
> claiming we're thinking of the spec as sacrosanct. Damn right! 

Well, a spec can't be "sacrosanct." The phrase is like "flag
desecration" -- it's an act no one can perform, because a flag is not a
sacred object (unlike a crucifix can be considered to be, for example).
However, when people use the phrase "flag desecration", what they
generally have in mind is the suppression of questioning, dissent, and
any views with which they do not agree. Surely your definition of the
topic map "community" does not include such practices?

Further, if the spec *is* like a sacred text, some portions of it are
less sacred than others -- we label those portions "informative" as
opposed to "normative", as a signal to the entire community that those
portions are less "sacred" than others.

> Kal has said, this community has built a small number of vendors
> who've gone out and done some business, all around XTM. 

Vendors and consultants and authors and information owners, yes.

> Even if XTM has some flaws, we had better be really sure any changes 
> to XTM at this point are *reaalllllly* warranted (and not simply a
> philosophical difference) because screwing with the vendor and
> customer base will certainly kill this nascent industry.

OK. I can agree that issues with XTM shouldn't be raised for frivolous
reasons. (I don't accept that "philosophical" changes cannot, by
definition, be warranted, because so many technical issues in topic
maps have a philosophical flavor to them.) But ISO tasked the editors
of 13250 with the topic map core -- and I don't see how they can do
their job without asking questions, and in public. (If the process took
place in private, wouldn't you be one of the first to complain?) This
doesn't undermine topic maps, it puts them on a firmer foundation.

Kal gave a really good metaphor in private mail which I will take the
liberty of using here.

He compared topic maps to a cart -- in fact, the proverbial apple cart
that can be "upset." Now, after a lot of labor by a lot of people, the
apple cart is now righted and moving forward. 

So, what does "stability" mean in this context? Well, the apple cart
could be "stable" if it were unmoving in a ditch by the side of the
road. No one wants that. The apple cart could be "stable" if it were
stuck in the middle of the road and not going anywhere. No one wants
that. Or the apple cart could be "stable" if it were making steady
progress down the road -- taking apples to a market, for example ;-)
That's what I want, at least. 

And I think that the layered processes we have (ISO, OASIS) will take
us down that road. (This is why I have been so concerned to lay out the
nature of the ISO process in the no doubt tedious-to-some thread on the
public interest summarized above.) 

BUT -- progress down any road means accepting the possibility of bumps,
avoiding wrong turns, and knowing if and when the cart needs to be
fixed (though this is not *not* NOT likely). Carts, even apple carts,
aren't sacred -- and thinking that they are, could get in way of
"stability" -- as I define it in this extended metaphor.


P.S. Have a great time in the UK.

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